REVIEW: HTC’s U Ultra sets the bar high

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By Paisal Chuenprasaeng

Taiwanese firm packs an amazing amount of power and much more into this phone

HTC U Ultra is a powerful smartphone in sleek design, a clever interface, good sound system and very good quality camera as well as fast Internet connection.

The U Ultra is the latest flagship smartphone from the Taiwanese IT giant that is available in Thailand. Although HTC announced its latest flagship smartphone in Taiwan on May 16, U11, it is not yet available in Thailand.

The U Ultra is available in Thailand in two elegant colours – Brilliant Black and Sapphire Blue. The Brilliant Black I had my hands on looked really sleek – both front and back look great in shiny black when the display is off.

htc u ultra

The U Ultra has a beautifully 3D contoured, liquid-like surface. It has a lustrous, symmetrical, curved-glass construction that reflects light beautifully with colour from vaporous minerals layered to add depth and brilliance from every angle. The polished surface bends and blends seamlessly into the side of the phone allowing it to nestle perfectly in your hand.

The U Ultra also comes in a strong metal unibody that is only 7.99 mm thin and it weighs about 170 grams.

The smartphone is really powerful thanks to its Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 64-bit quad-core processor running at 2.15 GHz and it comes with a hefty 4 gigabytes of working memory or RAM. It comes with 64 GB of internal storage, which is expandable with a microSD card of up to 2 terabytes. But the microSD card will occupy the second nano SIM slot.

It runs on Google’s Android 7.0 operating system with HTC Sense user interface on top of it.

Yes, the U Ultra has dual nano SIM slots and easy-to-use function for selecting which SIM will be used for 4G data connection. The other SIM will use a 3G/2G network. When making phone calls, you can select manually which SIM to use.

During the test, I found that the U Ultra had good performance. Apps and touch screen were responsive. Games ran fast and smoothly. Video clips also played smoothly. Moreover, the U Ultra can play high-resolution audio files of FLAC 24bit/192kHz format well.

htc u ultra

I used AnTuTu Benchmark v6.2.7 to benchmark its performance and found that it scored 142,505 points. According to AnTuTu, the top model is iPhone 7 Plus with 181,421 points.

This HTC flagship phone has a very fast 4G connection. I tested it on TrueMove H’s 4G LTE network and I was impressed by the connection speed. Apps were downloaded very fast and my snapshots were backed up to my Google Photos cloud storage in no time.

I used Ookla Speedtest app to measure the connection speed and found that it achieved the fastest download speed of 118.09 Mbps and upload speed of 34.15 Mbps.

The U Ultra has 5.7-inch Quad HD super LCD 5 display with 2560×1440 pixels. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The high resolution and colourful display make it very good for viewing photos and watching video clips.

And HTC’s interface makes good use of the large display with its Dual Display function.

htc u ultra

The Dual Display allocates a tiny fraction on the top of display with a resolution of 160×1040 pixels as a secondary display to give you fast, convenient access to the things you use the most, including your favourite contracts, app shortcuts, event notifications and other things.

Even when the main display is off, the secondary display can give you information like Facebook alerts. You simply lift the phone when the main display is off or double-tap the secondary display to turn it on.

You can swipe left or right to navigate the secondary display to get the information you want, like your favourite contracts, app shortcuts, weather information and Music app’s playing control. You can select which apps will be allowed to display alerts on the secondary display and it is easy to add favourite contracts and app shortcuts to the secondary display.

htc u ultra

The U Ultra has good quality main camera with 12 megapixel UltraPixel sensor. The main camera’s HTC UltraPixel 2 image sensor has larger pixel size than most image sensors used in mobile phones. The UltraPixel 2’s pixel is 1.55 microns large, allowing each pixel to capture more light, resulting in better details and more vivid colours.

Moreover, the main camera’s sapphire lens is very bright with f/1.8 aperture so the main camera has good performance in low-light environment.

The main camera has fast auto-focusing thanks to its dual focusing technologies – laser focus and Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF).

htc u ultra

Several shooting modes are available including Pro, Photo, Zoe camera, and Panorama. The Photo is like the auto mode that the camera will set everything for you while the Pro will allow you to adjust several shooting parameters, including white balance, exposure compensation, ISO sensitivity, and focus types. The Pro mode can also remain an auto mode if you leave all parameters to the default “auto” options.

Within the Pro mode, you can select from three pre-set scenes – Nightscape, Fast-moving and Close-up. The Nightscape is very handy for capturing a city skyline at night or street with city lights. I enjoyed using this mode to capture beautiful lights at night.

The Zoe camera mode is fun to use as it will capture three seconds of HD video along with the photo.

The main camera is also capable of recording slow motion video at resolution of 720p at the rate of 120 frames per second. Moreover, the main camera can record 4K video with 3D Audio or Hi-Res audio stereo recording.

htc u ultra

If you love taking selfie shots, you will be happy that the front-facing camera of the U Ultra has 16 megapixels. Moreover, when using the front camera, you can select between 16MP resolution and UltraPixel. The UltraPixel option is good for taking selfie shots in dark environments because the UltraPixel mode is four times more sensitive to light than the standard mode.

During the test, I found that U Ultra captured beautiful shots with good exposures, good details and colours with the main camera. The front camera also functioned very well and there is also Live Makeup function that allows you to smooth your skin in real time before taking a shot.

The U Ultra has a good sound system. It does not come with a standard 3.5mm stereo jack but it provides a pair of HTC USonic Adaptive Earphones which connect to U Ultra’s USB Type-C port.

htc u ultra

The earphones and U Ultra use HTC Usonic audio platform to analyse your inner ear and automatically adapts the sound profile to optimise your listening experience.

During the test, I found that the U Ultra played good quality music via the USonic earphones with clarity, good details of musical instrument and powerful bass.

The U Ultra is also good for sharing music with friends like a portable speaker system thanks to HTC BoomSound feature that uses Hi-Fi edition speakers to deliver loud and clear music.

Moreover, the U Ultra comes with four omnidirectional mics for capturing positional sound and recording 360-degree immersive audio when you shoot a video.

The U Ultra comes with fast 802.11ac Wi-Fi connection and HTC Connect features that allows you to wirelessly stream music or video from your phone to your speakers or TV by just swiping up the screen with three fingers.

htc u ultra

HTC Connect supports AirPlay speakers or Apple TV, Backfire compliant multi-room speakers, multi-room speakers that support Qualcomm AllPlay smart media platform, DLNA compatible speakers and TV, Miracast compatible display devices, and Chromecast compatible display devices.

The smartphone also comes with HTC Sense Companion that will learn from your activities and it also has built-in voice recognition. You can give voice commands to HTC Sense Companion to make a phone call and send messages, for example.

Another nice feature of U Ultra is that it has a fingerprint scanner built into the home button for unlocking your phone to add more security. The fingerprint scanner has 360-degree readability, so you can touch a recorded finger at any angle to the scanner to turn on the screen or unlock the smartphone.

The U Ultra has a good battery life with a 3,000 mAh built-in battery that allowed me to comfortably survive a day. The battery supports Quick Charge 3.0 technology and it also comes with Power saving mode and Extreme power saving mode in case of emergency.

U Ultra also comes with Boost+ app to help extend battery life. The app can help you optimise the phone’s performance by allocating resources, removing junk files, stopping irregular app activities and uninstalling the apps you don’t use.

HTC U Ultra has a suggested retail price of Bt22,490.

HTC U Ultra Key Specs

– Platform: Android 7.0 with HTC Sense

– Networks: 4G LTE Cat 11, 3G UMTS, 2G GSM

– CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821, 64 bit quad-core 2.15 Ghz

– Memory: 4 GB RAM

– Storage: 64GB internal, expandable with microSD up to 2TB

– Display: 5.7-inch 2560×1440 pixel LCD 5 display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5

– SIM card: dual nano SIM

– Camera: 12MP HTC UltraPixel 2 front camera with f/1.8 lens; 16MP front camera’s

– Location: GPS, A-GPS, GLONASS, Beidou

– Sensors: Ambient light sensor, Proximity sensor, Motion G-sensor, Compass sensor, Gyro sensor, Magnetic sensor, Fingerprint sensor

– Connectivity: NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, HTC Connect

– Port: USB 3.1 Gen 1, Type-C

– Battery: 3,000 mAh, supports Quick Charge 3.0

– Dimensions: 162.41 x 79.79 x 3.6-7.99mm

– Weight: 170g

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